Ground breaking on St. Albans Walmart - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Ground breaking on St. Albans Walmart

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. -

Country music was blaring, American flags waving and after twenty years the ground breaking on a Walmart in Franklin County.

Behind this raucous crowd is a soft spoken supporter, Ray Gadue. "I can tell you how it all started," Gadue said. He's the one who collected 12,000 signatures from Franklin County and helped push the project, despite appeals opposing the Walmart. He said he'd do it all over again to get to this moment, breaking ground on a Walmart set to open in October of 2013.  "If you quit they win," he said.

Developers first proposed building the Superstore back in 1991, but were denied an Act 250 permit by the state. The case sat idle after being denied by the Environmental Board in 1997 under the grounds that it would have a negative impact on downtown St. Albans.

It's a sentiment still found downtown today.  "I am not happy with Walmart coming here," said Winnie Wilkinson, who runs a local food stand at the St. Albans farmers market. She said a big box store will hurt her business and do little to help Franklin County taxpayers. "If you buy from your down the street person that lives in Franklin County you will help our tax bracket. With Walmart coming in I'm not so sure it will help us," she said.

Wilkinson's opposition is more difficult to find in St. Albans these days -- nearly drowned out by the celebration down the street, where people are sick of their weekly drives to Williston. "When you want to get anything more than a washcloth, or even a washcloth, you have to go to Williston," said Linda Sprano.

Former Governor Jim Douglas started fighting for the Walmart back in 2003.  He said the permitting process prevents Vermont from meeting basic needs. "The permitting process in Vermont can be a little onerous I think there's no better example of the obstacles that can be put in front of a project than the Walmart here in St. Albans," he said.

Some opponents say Goliath won, as another Superstore makes its way to Vermont. But it's making a lot of Vermonters that are fighting the permitting process happy to have another place to shop.

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